Nigeria spends an average of N2.5t annually on medical tourism. This includes what Nigerians spend on medicine component of their treatment while outside this shores, which is estimated to be at least $250m
The situation, according to doctors and pharmacists, will persist until the government paid due attention to improving the deteriorating condition of health facilities in the country.
Essentially, they are worried that President Muhammadu Buhari and top government officials frequent trips for medical attention abroad has not helped the situation, with hundreds of millions of naira spent out of government purse.
Checks by The Guardian revealed the probable cost of the president’s medical treatment abroad to be between 200, 000 pounds and 250,000 pounds per hour.
In addition, his continued stay abroad has robbed the nation of some millions of naira spent by top government officials and party leaders who besiege the Abuja House, London, to wish the president well.
Notable leaders, who traveled with first class ticket, would have spent a minimum of N3.5 million each for their return tickets to London.
So far, those who have visited the president in London are; Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, National Leader of All progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu, APC former interim chairman, Bisi Akande and a nephew of the president, Mamman Daura, as well as, Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun.
Medical tourism, which has become a drain on the country’s foreign reserves, has elicited the concerns of professionals on the need for increased budgetary allocation to the health sector, to enable it improve on the present facilities in the tertiary health institutions across the country.
Stakeholders frown at the less than five per cent, about 4.15 per cent (N303 billion) allocated to health in the proposed 2017 national budget of N7.29 trillion, despite serious negative health indices.
Immediate Past President of PSN, Olumide Akintayo, told The Guardian: “At today’s exchange rate, there is at least N1 trillion worth of drugs in this health system. For a country that is still forced to depend on importation of over 70 per cent of its drug needs, this transcends to S1.4b on drug imports or N700b.
NMA President, Dr. Mike Ogirima, said if the 20 teaching hospitals and 35 federal medical centres spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country are refurbished and made to function optimally, Nigerians will not need to travel abroad again for medical treatment and it will prevent brain drain in the health sector. More on page 15